Lionsgate Will Mandate Abortion Safety Protocols for Employees, CEO Says in Memo (EXCLUSIVE)

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer — in his regular weekly letter to the staff — has vowed that the company will prioritize and protect the reproductive rights of its employees.

In the letter, which was obtained by Variety, Feltheimer noted that Lionsgate already has strong protections in place “to safeguard employees from discrimination, harassment, bullying and invasion of privacy,” and wrote that after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June, which overturned Roe v. Wade, “it has become necessary to develop strong policies and add to our comprehensive benefits to protect our employees’ reproductive rights as well.” Feltheimer’s letter is copied in full below.

The Lionsgate show “P-Valley,” which airs on Starz, is filmed in Georgia, where abortion is forbidden as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Feltheimer acknowledges in the memo that there might be “differing views on this sensitive issue within our diverse Lionsgate family.” But, he continues, “the reproductive rights of every employee must be protected, individual choice will be safeguarded, and access to necessary health services will be prioritized.” Perhaps most significant, he writes that Lionsgate is currently working to implement a “comprehensive policy to carry out this mandate – one that factors in health insurance issues, the legal and regulatory frameworks of the states in which we operate, and a host of other issues.”

Of late, the entertainment industry has been in upheaval over what Hollywood studios should do to protect employees in states where abortion has been outlawed, or soon will be. Right after Dobbs, studios and media companies such as Disney, Netflix, Meta and several more promised to fund travel for any employee who needed to go out of state to obtain an abortion. (On Friday, SAG-AFTRA announced specifics for how its Health Plan will cover travel for abortions that have to be obtained out of state.)

But the larger issue was intensified on July 28 when a coalition of more than 400 powerful showrunners sent letters to top-level executives at most of the major studios demanding that abortion safety protocols be put in place. The following Monday, another 594 male showrunners and creators backed up that demand, putting the total number of signatories over a thousand.

The alliance of showrunners gave the studios a deadline of the end of the day on Aug. 10, which the studios met on Wednesday evening, sending a collective response from AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery. The studios’ response offered no specifics to the four demands from the showrunners, and instead deferred to the health plans of the individual Hollywood unions. The studio letter did leave a door open for particular protocols to be put in place later, stating they were “continuing to evaluate ways that we can best provide for our employees and workers who support our productions.”

Lionsgate was notably absent from the studios’ response, but Feltheimer has now issued his own.

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Dear Colleagues:

Protecting the safety and well-being of our employees is our highest priority. We have strong policies and processes in place to safeguard employees from discrimination, harassment, bullying and invasion of privacy. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it has become necessary to develop strong policies and add to our comprehensive benefits to protect our employees’ reproductive rights as well.

There may be differing views on this sensitive issue within our diverse Lionsgate family. Consistent with our values, we are committed to a respectful, tolerant and mutually supportive internal dialogue. But our Company’s position on this matter is clear and unequivocal:  the reproductive rights of every employee must be protected, individual choice will be safeguarded, and access to necessary health services will be prioritized. We are currently engaged in the process of developing a thoughtful and comprehensive policy to carry out this mandate – one that factors in health insurance issues, the legal and regulatory frameworks of the states in which we operate, and a host of other issues.

Please have a safe and relaxing weekend.

Sincerely,

Jon

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